Monday, 7 October 2019

Harvest-tide - 13th October gathering for reverence by Ringwood #Unitarians and friends

The next gathering for reverence of Unitarians in Ringwood, and friends, will be on Sunday 13 October, arriving around 9.45 a.m. for a 10 a.m. start, in the Ringwood Meeting House on Meeting House Lane, BH24 1EY.

Car parking is opposite (fees apply); and the Meeting House is also opposite a set of bus stops served by X3 buses from Bournemouth and Salisbury, as well as local buses.

We welcome newcomers and first time visitors as well as those who have been coming before.  Children's activities available.

The topic will be: "The Harvest - Nature and Nurture"

Come as you are, exactly as you are; and expect to be have been changed by the time you leave.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Harvest-time – a time of fruition – remembering the sacred meal #unitarians

The time of fruition came, the crowning glory.

The all, complete entirety, the dance, the great unfolding, the source and rule of all that is, radiant and breathing through the great teacher Jesus, said this to humankind, to us:

I am realized, I am embodied.

Take, eat: this here, this now – this is my Body which is given for you.
Remember thisness as often as you eat; set your self down – as you would set down a plate on a table – to clear the way for me to claim you and nourish you.

All of you, drink of this: this here, this now 
 this is my Lifeblood which is given for you.
Remember thisness as often as you drink; hold out your self – as you would hold out a chalice to the jug – to clear the way for me to claim you and fill you.

Set your self down and offer your self up,

And I will claim you.

Different Religions, Different Approaches at our gathering in March 2019 - #Unitarians mustn't sideline studying different faiths - thinking as well as experiencing has its place

At our gathering on 10 March we held a service designed with children in mind, though the children’s story was - like the best stories - multi-layered, with several messages for adults to unpick during the week to come.

Our gathering picked up on an aspect of the life of communities of faith that seemed to have been missing from the recent Festival of Unitarians in the South East, which we had attended as a group.  That aspect was a journey into comparative religion, or comparison of different theological perspectives from different world faiths.

We started with a Pagan creed, written by one of our own number, then heard readings from the Baha’i and Hindu faiths. We considered several points.

The first point was the particular theological difference highlighted in the two readings, namely that the Baha’i faith considers God the Creator to be completely distinct and separate from the created universe, with the two not in any way to be equated.  By contrast, the Hindu faith sees the ultimate creating principle, Brahman, to exist as Atman inside all that is created; and that a person who realises the Atman within has also realised Brahman, so may in all seriousness declare, “I am God.”  This may chime with some of the sayings of Jesus and other mystics, whose words are recorded in such a way sometimes to be unclear as to who is speaking.

Shrine of Bahā'u'llāh, the prophet of the Baha'i faith, in Acre, Israel
We also heard that whereas Western Christianity as known during the late Middle Ages seemed to stand definitively with the Baha’is on this issue, St Francis of Assisi challenged this with his reverence for all things created; and his legacy has come through to the present day.  Franciscan teachers such as Richard Rohr and those likeminded in his community feel able to make statements such as this, in the present day (the link below the image is to the source website):

The second point considered was that when people of two theologies come into contact with each other, there are (at least) two possible reactions.  Religious people who are conservative in their approach may set up barriers in order not to dilute their message for the sake of certainty, and to keep their identity clear.  Religious people who are liberal (progressive) in their approach may seek to include both theologies in order to prevent boundaries being set up and to include more people.  We explored that as well as benefits, there are costs associated with each approach.  The actions of religious conservatives may instigate conflict.  The actions of religious liberals will require change within the group to accommodate new ideas, which is hard work, and can give rise to uncertainty regarding identity and who belongs.  We owe these ideas to Jonathan Haidt.

The third point we looked at is the idea that being conversant with a range of different world faith theologies and concepts makes one multi-lingual in terms of religion.  As with languages of the world: some things can be said in one language that simply cannot be said in another language.  People who can only speak one language find this hard to grasp, but bilingual families will recognise this very well.  For much more on this fascinating subject see David Bellos Is That A Fish In Your Ear? Translation and the meaning of everything
If we can speak the lingo of another faith then, even with people whose theologies we cannot share, we can have some extremely interesting and civilised conversations. And more personally, in having a variety of different ways of speaking about faith we have a richer vocabulary in which to speak about the religious experience.

Rev Bill Darlison (a Unitarian Minister) has also touched on the idea of one’s early received religion as one’s mother tongue, in his book of essays The Penultimate Truth and Other Incitements

Woven into all this thinking in our gathering, we also did some experiencing.  We experienced our usual silent ritual of making a circle with a candle, bread, water, and a fan of feathers.  We sang a couple of hymns from our green hymn books, held a seven minute silence for meditation or prayer as we each needed, and lit candles of joy and concern.